Chronic absenteeism in our schools is a serious problem that has clearly proven to have negative consequences for children in both the short and long term. Bold Goals Education, an arm of the Bold Goals Coalition, has been sharply focused on this issue in Central Alabama, and has held numerous workshops to provide school administrators and teachers with tools to improve attendance – tools such as practical information on best practices, innovative ideas, powerful community resources and testimonials about successful programs and techniques on a case-by-case basis. Now it’s time to take the next step by going broader with our message and methods in order to achieve more widespread results.
That next step depends on having a mechanism that promotes and facilitates progressive action and collective impact across school systems. To that end, the Helping Families Initiative within the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office has agreed to chair Professional Learning Communities (PLC). PLC is a platform for action composed of education leaders, such as school administrators and various community partners, who are intensely dedicated to improving school attendance in our five-county area. In order to reduce chronic absenteeism, members of PLC focus on:
- developing staff capacity to adopt effective attendance practices
- using chronic-absence data to determine supports for students
- advocating for resources and policies to improve attendance
- cultivating school-wide cultures of attendance
PLC’s first meeting consisted of an honest dialog as principals and partners evaluated their schools’ current approach to supporting student attendance. Participants, who have all committed to implementing best practices, spent time unearthing the factors that are out of their hands and sharing common frustrations. The more exciting part of the meeting, however, was the conversation about those factors that CAN be impacted through methods that have proven to be extremely effective.
In the coming months, education professionals will be growing in their skills, collaborating on solutions and inspiring one another to take the necessary steps, and find new ways, to curb chronic absenteeism. We have received great response already from our first meeting and look forward to moving the needle forward on school attendance throughout Central Alabama!